Dr. Stephen Freedland is a urologist at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, California, and the Director of the Center for Integrated Research in Cancer and Lifestyle, Co-Director of the Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program and Associate Director for Faculty Development at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute.
Dr. Freedland treats the whole patient and not just a man’s prostate cancer.
Prostatepedia spoke with him about diet and prostate cancer.
Are there any supplements that prevent or delay prostate cancer progression? Or supplements prostate cancer patients should avoid?
Dr. Freedland: All of them. There are no data to show that your general multivitamin supplement does anything beneficial in terms of prostate cancer. No data. Period.
If you look at general multivitamins, the data suggest that they have no effect on prostate cancer risk.
In fact, some studies show that, particularly if you take more than one multivitamin per day, this will increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
Why would it increase the risk?
Dr. Stephen Freedland: Your tumor cells grow faster than normal cells. They need the same vitamins to survive that your regular cells do. Once you provide for your body’s needs, anything else is just going to help the tumor. If you take too high of a dose of some of these vitamins, say antioxidants, they become pro-oxidant.
The vitamins we take are either water-soluble, which means they come out in urine—some say Americans have the most expensive pee in the world!—or they’re fatsoluble, which means you don’t absorb them unless you eat fat.
Vitamins D and E are fat-soluble. Vitamin D is quite beneficial, but you need to consume fat to absorb it. Skimmed milk that’s fortified with Vitamin D won’t help you absorb any of it.
Would you be better off drinking whole milk?
Dr. Freedland: If you drink whole milk with Vitamin D, then you are actually going to absorb the Vitamin D.
Why do so many cancer patients flock to supplements if they’re not beneficial?
Dr. Freedland: Patients want an easy answer and supplements seem to provide one. When the question is how to beat cancer, simple answers are typically not the right answers.
Treating cancer needs a wholesale lifestyle change: lose weight and exercise. While it’s underexplored, stress management is likely very important for cancer too. Low stress helps boost the immune system because you’re in the right state of mind. Social support is also beneficial. There are actually data showing that, for cancer patients, being married is as effective in fighting cancer as getting chemotherapy.